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Letter: What responsibilities come with operating a public venue for the dissemination of ideas?

Editor: On Sept. 11, KTW published a letter from Martha Solomon (‘ Kamloops Film Society should not screen Unplanned ’) objecting to the decision of the Kamloops Film Society to rent its venue for screenings of the film Unplanned.
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Editor:

On Sept. 11, KTW published a letter from Martha Solomon (‘Kamloops Film Society should not screen Unplanned’) objecting to the decision of the Kamloops Film Society to rent its venue for screenings of the film Unplanned.

In her letter, Solomon asserted that the film is “anti-choice propaganda.”

Response letters published by KTW attacked Solomon as being “intolerant”, a “fascist bully” and anti-free speech.

I was troubled to see these personal attacks on Solomon, attributing intentions and values not founded on the words of her letter.

These attacks reveal how public debate on complex matters can easily become polarized as a zero-sum game between individual free speech and the equality rights of a minority group.

This state of affairs calls for a re-framing of the issues and a more productive approach.

Solomon’s characterization of the film as propaganda is emphatically supported by those who have fact-checked the film, including journalist Barry Hertz, deputy arts editor and film editor for the Globe and Mail.

Hertz identifies these false messages in Unplanned: that a 13-week fetus can feel pain and attempt to escape an abortion; that abortion providers are crude, incompetent and indifferent; that the non-profit Planned Parenthood profits large from abortion; and that abortions are dangerous.

According to Hertz, Unplanned slickly dramatizes these lies, while presenting them as facts. Hertz describes scenes in which the film appears to condone violence against abortion providers.

For Hertz, the fundamental issue is that the film may erroneously influence women’s reproductive choices.

There is nothing problematic about putting competing and informed moral perspectives into conversation. However, Hertz’ fact-based analysis of Unplanned reveals the real issue facing the Kamloops Film Society — what responsibilities come with operating a public venue for the dissemination of ideas?

Does the film society have an ethical and democratic duty not to facilitate the spread of false information on matters of public policy?

How many lies are too many? Would the film society screen a film with comparable falsehoods about vaccinations, climate change or immigration?

There is no escaping these questions. Every exercise of freedom comes with consequences and responsibility.

Charis Kamphuis

Kamloops